Tokyo keeps crown as Michelin gourmet capital

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the election trail, tries some grilled fish. Picture: Reuters

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the election trail, tries some grilled fish. Picture: Reuters

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Tokyo kept its crown as the Michelin guide’s gourmet capital yesterday with the most starred restaurants for an eighth straight year, in the first guide released since Unesco listed 
Japanese washoku cuisine as an “intangible cultural heritage”.

Among the establishments that gained three-star ratings in the 2015 Michelin guide to Tokyo, was one that serves poisonous blowfish, and a traditional eatery whose chef at first thought his win was a joke.

The guide, which used to include the neighbouring city of Yokohama and the coastal Shonan area, was limited to Tokyo this year to allow a wider listing of Japanese food in the “Bib Gourmand” section that emphasises cheaper restaurants, Michelin said.

For the first time, the guide lists several eateries serving chanko nabe, a rich stew that helps sumo wrestlers pack on weight, as well as several specialising in cuisine featuring loach, a type of fish.

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As many as 267 restaurants gained stars, 19 of them for the first time. The coveted three-star rating, the Michelin guide’s top honour, went to 12 restaurants, down one from last year. Newly promoted to three stars from two was Makimura, a traditional restaurant whose owner, Akio Makimura, said he still could not believe he had won.

A grinning Mr Makimura said: “When I got the phone call this morning informing me of the promotion I thought it was a joke.”

The chef, who wore a grey turtleneck for an event to mark the occasion, said he felt tremendous pressure when he made his debut on the list – and had dreamed of gaining a top rating one day.

“I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve always done. The best part of Japanese food is the freshness of the ingredients and bringing that to life in your cooking.”

Other restaurants that won the three-star rating included Usukifugu Yamadaya, which serves fugu, poisonous blowfish which can be fatal if improperly prepared. Another winner was Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, whose master chef is in his late 80s and which was the site of an informal leaders’ dinner when US President Barack Obama visited Japan in April.

The first Michelin restaurant guide, aimed at drivers in the early days of motoring, was publishing by the tyre company in 1900, with the star rating system introduced in the 1920s. Tokyo was the first Asian city to have a guide devoted to it.

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